For the past 20 years, the people of northern Uganda have been caught in a war between the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda. More than 30,000 children have been abducted by the LRA and coerced into becoming child soldiers and sex slaves. 1.7 million people—eighty percent of the population—are displaced by the conflict, forced to live in squalid camps. The UN recently reported that 1,000 people die each week due to conditions in the camps. This situation cannot be tolerated.The event will take place in Washington, D.C. Many of us won’t be able to go, but we can still “make noise” by calling our senators or House representatives. What do we ask for? Take a lead from this excerpt from a sample letter to members of Congress provided by Africa Faith and Justice Network (another sponsor of the event) regarding the current peace talks underway between the Government of Uganda and LRA:
In 1994, just two weeks into the Rwandan genocide, human rights activist Alison Des Forges met with National Security Adviser Anthony Lake about the mass slaughter that was unfolding. When it was clear that the Clinton Administration had no intention of getting involved in the crisis, Des Forges, exasperated, asked Lake what she could do. "You have got to make more noise. The phones are not ringing," he told her.
For Rwanda, the phones never rang, and a million people were killed while the world watched. But in northern Uganda, we have the chance to make a difference!
The 2006 Northern Uganda Lobby Day and Symposium will bring together scholars, activists, policymakers, students and concerned citizens from across the country to "make more noise" about the human tragedy taking place in northern Uganda. This noise, when sustained, will save lives and help end a war.
For talks to proceed, elevated attention and more responsible policy is needed by the United States, donor countries and regional institutions. First, the international community can monitor the talks, holding actors accountable to the process. High-level monitoring can raise the profile of the talks, pressuring government representatives to remain fully committed to the success of negotiations. Second, donor governments can help build a peace dividend so that if an agreement is reached, the financial and political resources will be available for its implementation to the benefit of all parties involved. The return of displaced peoples, compensation of victims and reintegration of rebel fighters will require extensive international support.For more information visit Uganda Lobby Day’s website or see Invisible Children (and check out their uber-informative media kit). Also, if you’d like to know more about what is going on in Uganda, check out this blog’s Uganda category. Also, view the trailer for Invisible Children, 100 Percent and I Got Soul.
The United States, as a non-signatory to the ICC and world power, can play a unique role in ensuring that this opportunity to end the war is engaged in full. By giving diplomatic backing to the process, the U.S. can support the mediation of the Southern Sudanese and help keep both parties at the table. Therefore, I urge you to:
• Call the State Department today and urge them to issue a public statement in support of the talks.
• Hold hearings to examine the peace process and put forth recommendations for U.S. policy action.
• Continue the effort that began in 2004 with the passage of the Northern Uganda Crisis Response Act (S.2264) to engage the Bush Administration through Congressional letters and phone calls with recommendations for engaging these peace talks.
• Urge the Government of Uganda to continue its commitment to engaging peace talks and securing the return of all displaced peoples.
• Enact legally binding legislation addressing the needs and recommendations to
end this conflict.
(Image: Invisible Children)